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Choosing Who Has To Die

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Imagine an armed soldier walking into a kindergarten class, followed closely by a doctor. In a gruff voice, the soldier demands that the 18 five-year-olds line up in single file. The scared children do as they are told. Starting with the first in line, the doctor inspects each child for genetic defects. Those who have asthma are removed from the line. Those with poor eyesight come out of the line. The little girl with scoliosis is taken aside. The Down syndrome boy is yanked from the line. After the inspections are finished, only five children pass the examination. They are given an official certificate from the soldier that says they can live. The other 13 are taken outside, shot in the head, and thrown in the dumpster. Does this sound like the plot from a horror movie, or one of the heinous crimes of Hitler and his henchmen? Do you think our “civilized” society is above such gruesome brutality? Think again.

In her article, “Picking the Best Embryo from the Bunch,” Emily Singer describes new testing methods that can be used on embryos that are created during in vitro fertilization. In a nutshell, in vitro fertilization is the process by which several eggs from a woman are fertilized in a lab. Medical personnel then screen the embryos for genetic health and viability. A few of the most promising embryos are implanted in the mother-to-be’s womb. Other “healthy” embryos might be frozen for future implantation, while the remaining “unhealthy” embryos are discarded. Disposed of. Basically, flushed down the drain.

So what characteristics do these genetic screening methods attempt to identify? Why are some embryos discarded? Singer explains: “Such embryos are less likely to lead to successful pregnancies—they either fail to implant or miscarry, or if they do come to term, they can produce babies with disabilities such as Down's [sic] syndrome.” Notice that Singer implies that a non-successful pregnancy would include one from which a Down syndrome baby is born. Also notice her subtle, but false, differentiation between an embryo and the babies “they can produce.” The truth of the matter is that an embryo is a baby. Sly semantic tactics cannot change that fact. An embryo does not produce a baby. It simply grows into maturity, just as a child does not produce a teenager, but grows into one (for a more complete discussion of this point see Harrub, 2002; Miller, 2006). In reality, then, these genetic screenings are little more than a doctor’s examination to see which babies “deserve” to live and which ones are not “normal” enough to get a chance—because they might be Down syndrome babies, or “defective” in some other way.

Have we forgotten the inspired words of the wise man: “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood...” (Proverbs 6:16-17)? Just because we have acquired the ability to detect “normal” babies at their earliest stages does not give us the right to exterminate all others that might have “less of a chance” of survival, or might survive but have Down syndrome. Who gave us the prerogative to play God in such a vicious fashion? Hitler and his ilk tried to play God and were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet our society has become so insensitive to the value of human life that those who frequently destroy thousands of babies in embryonic stages are decorated as scientific overachievers. As the prophet of old warned: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21). May God give us the wisdom and the courage to stand against the brutal holocaust that is being carried out in the name of Science!


Harrub, Brad (2002), “The Inherent Value of Human Life,” Reason and Revelation, July 22[7]:49-55, [On-line], URL:

Miller, Dave (2006), “Embryos are People,” [On-line], URL:

Singer, Emily (2007), “Picking the Best Embryo from the Bunch,” Technology Review, January, [On-line], URL:

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